An awesome Ability Bow gym member living with cerebral palsy has struck a super chord after proudly performing with the South West Open Youth Orchestra (SWOYO). He plays the Clarion, an innovative digital instrument that enables him to control musical notes using the movement of his forehead.
Building on his success playing with an ensemble over the past three years, Tower Hamlets resident George Roberts, 24, will this month join the newly formed National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO), the first national youth orchestra in the world to be led by young disabled musicians. He will train at the NOYO South-West Training centre set up in partnership with Bristol Music Trust and The National Centre for Inclusive Excellence.
George began his musical journey at the National Star College in Cheltenham after being selected by the college’s head music teacher to perform for BBC Music Day, which was broadcast live to over two million BBC Radio 3 listeners.
Awesome Orchestra Award
Genius gym member George joined SWOYO after being invited to audition by Barry Farrimond MBE and Musical Director Doug Bott, who are now also the driving forces behind NOYO. He secured his place in the orchestra in September 2015.
In 2017, George took to the stage with Barry Farrimond MBE to collect a prestigious Learning & Participation award - the highest recognition for live classical music-making in the United Kingdom - at the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards on behalf of SWOYO.
The orchestra was recognised for its contribution to wider participation in music creation, empowering young disabled musicians, and promoting high quality musical experience and understanding.
The orchestra empowers musicians aged 11-25 to develop their skills through one-to-one lessons, group rehearsals and performances, also facilitating the use of accessible instruments such as the Clarion, or the Linnstrument.
Speaking about his inclusion within the orchestra, George’s mum Eileen, says: “I’m very proud of George and that he’s doing something he loves, which is also thanks to those who have been able to bring it out of him.
“What’s great about the orchestra - and being at Ability Bow - is that George has developed more confidence when out and about and particularly at places where he’s performing music; and thanks to the gym too, he’s been able to be more mobile when doing more music.”
Incredible Instrument Innovations
The award-winning Clarion for PC uses assistive technologies like Eye-gaze and SmartNav to enable various physical movements ranging from head, hands and eyes to control notes. George, the avid music fan, uses the Clarion on his laptop. This is connected to a special assistive dot placed in the middle of his glasses’ frame, so that he can play his instrument with his forehead during performances. The Clarion is also available to play on the iPad.
“Performing music for SWOYO and now NOYO, which is a great organisation with staff who are always committed - and being at the gym has just further boosted his physical and emotional wellbeing and I’m so happy George is living and breathing his passions,” Eileen adds.
NOYO offers for the first time an environment in which talented young disabled musicians can develop their skills without barriers. NOYO members play a range of instruments, not only traditional instruments like the harp, violin or French horn, but also innovative digital instruments that do not require ten dexterous fingers to be played.
Grateful For Our Gym
First joining our Ability Bow gym this year, George - who is physically assisted by mum, Eileen, with his daily mobility - now attends our unique disabilities and long-term health conditions rehabilitation service once a week after completing 10 one-to-one support sessions with our highly qualified and incredible instructor, Patrick Trotman.
Working on enhancing his general movement and flexibility such as in his legs and arms at our gym, Eileen says George is part of a service which is truly special.
She says: “There isn’t anywhere like Ability Bow that George can visit and I’ve often said to everyone here there should be more gyms like this.
“So many people live with long-term health conditions and disabilities and this gym is such a brilliant place to aid recovery and maintain people’s wellbeing.
“I genuinely don’t know what we would do otherwise without it as the team here know so much about disability and while it’s down the road from us which is a bonus, we’re very luck and so grateful for our gym.”
Proud of his achievements at the gym and collaborative rehab work with George, Ability Bow Advanced Instructor, Patrick Trotman, says: “George is such an amazing person and I’m so proud of how he and his mum Eileen are developing incredible physical and mental strength to be able to do what they do at the orchestra and within our gym.”
“We’ve seen such great progress in George since he’s been at Ability Bow and I’m just grateful to be part of his journey in getting to where he is now - to sum up, well done George and Eileen!”
Doug Bott, NOYO Musical Director says: “George is a great musician to work with. He's a great ensemble player - always warm and humorous, and his determination to succeed is an example to us all.”
Find Out More
National Open Youth Orchestra
To find out more about the National Open Youth Orchestra and how to apply:
To find out more about the Clarion: